COVID-19 Malaysian Example
'Ada Derana' on Friday reported that the Acting IGP C. D. Wickramaratne has ordered Police stations to ensure that all supermarkets, groceries and pharmacies, except State-run 'Rajya Osu Sala' outlets in the country are to be closed with immediate effect. Quoting the Police Media spokesman it said that supermarkets have however been permitted to deliver essential food items to the homes of consumers. 'Ada Derana' further said that pharmacies will be allowed to deliver medicine to homes.
These measures have been taken to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Consequently the Colombo District which houses the country's commercial capital Colombo, together with a few other districts have been plunged into an indefinite curfew from 17 March, a total of 13 days to yesterday.
At the time of writing, Sri Lanka has reported 122 coronavirus cases including one death and 17 recoveries.
In the context of the measures taken by Sri Lanka to combat the spread of the virus, Malaysia, which, at the time of writing reported 2,470 cases including 34 deaths, has imposed a nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO), but not a curfew, from 18 March to 14 April.
The MCO includes a ban on mass assembly within Malaysia including religious, sports, social and cultural activities. All houses of worship and business premises are closed, except for supermarkets, public markets, grocery stores and stores and department stores selling everyday necessities. All schools and universities, both private and public are also closed. All Government and private services except those involved in essential services such as water, electricity, power, telecom, postal, transportation, fuel, finance, banking, health, pharmacy, fire, port, airport, security, retail and food supply are also closed.
Interstate travel within Malaysia is restricted and may require preapproval by the Royal Malaysian Police. Further, only one member of each household is permitted to leave the house to acquire essential supplies.
However, home-cooked food from supermarkets/wet markets are available and public transport modes throughout the country will be allowed to operate from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily during the MCO period. Further, taxi and e-hailing services may continue to operate as usual in accordance with these guidelines under the MCO.
As financial services are deemed an essential service during the MCO, self-service terminals such as ATMs and cash, cheque, and coin deposit machines are operational at accessible locations. However, operating hour's at all self-service terminals are limited from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily during the MCO period.
Online banking, namely electronic banking, mobile banking, payment card services and cheque processing services are fully operational. Money changing and remittance services are available at bank branches.
Processing and handling of insurance and takaful claims, guarantee letter issuance and annual renewal of insurance and takaful policies are also available.
E-payment providers are also considered as providing essential services as they fall under the e-commerce category. All providers of these essential financial services are allowed to provide limited counter service during the MCO period.
If a bank customer doesn't have an online account, one can still withdraw and deposit cash, make fund transfers or pay bills at self-service terminals, ATMs and cash deposit machines.
Counter services are still available during the MCO period but on a limited basis. With reference to telecom services during the MCO period, customers can still use self-serve kiosks (SSK) or their apps for most account-related issues.
Maxis, the largest telecoms services provider in Malaysia, which also has nearly a 50% stake in SLT, has said customers could deal with the company by utilising SSK for bill payment, prepaid top-ups and SIM replacement, calling the call centre, and/or chatting via their website or app for other account-related services.
Further, virtually all telecoms mobile operators in Malaysia have allowed reload facilities through designated retail outlets.
Meanwhile, if one compares certain indicators of the two countries, Sri Lanka's land area is 25,332 square miles (sq. mi.) whereas Malaysia's is five times larger that at 127,355 sq. mi. Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million whereas Malaysia has a population 1½ times bigger than that at over 31 million.
Further, Sri Lanka was only the second country in Asia to enjoy universal adult franchise which took place 89 years ago in 1931, whereas in Malaysia this took place as recently as only 51 years ago in 1969!
Nonetheless, there are many lessons that Sri Lanka can learn from Malaysia during these trying times. Among those are to permit physical bank branches open, albeit for limited hours so that customers who are not 'e' savvy could still conduct their banking business.
Have other essential services also physically open to the public for limited hours like groceries, supermarkets, pharmacies and ready to eat and (food) take-away retail outlets for those citizens who don't cook their food but eat from out.
And, also have public services operational so that Citizen Silva will be able to commute to 'Rajya Osu Sala' outlets to buy his medicines!